Who is buying UTair?

 - July 24, 2007, 10:35 AM

A mystery buyer has bought nearly half the shares in one of the world’s biggest helicopter operators, Russia’s UTair Aviation. UTair, heavily involved in United Nations peacekeeping operations from East Timor to Iraq, has worked with the UN since the collapse of the Soviet Union and, with a fleet of nearly 200 rotorcraft, is one of its biggest helicopter service providers.

The stake in the operator, which is based at Tyumen in an oil-rich region of western Siberia, includes the 26-percent share that previously belonged to the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous region administration and the nearly 20 percent controlled by the authorities of the city of Surgut.

Russian media quote unidentified sources as saying Russia’s number-four oil company (and UTair’s largest client), Surgutneftegaz, is behind the purchase of 46 percent of the company. However, the operator has dismissed that speculation.